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Bedford v Newcastle - RFU Championship final first leg match preview
- Richards refusing to count chickens
- Pleased for the players
- Newcastle back in the Premiership
- Rayer proud of team
Bedford Blues have been forced into one change as they look to break their duck against Newcastle in the RFU Championship final first leg on Thursday.
The Blues have played the Falcons on three occasions already this season and have lost each one - going down 29-20, 18-15 and 17-15.
But the Blues will be buoyed by their win over Nottingham in the semi-final - although winger Josh Bassett misses out through injury so James Stephenson starts.
Blues forwards coach Martin Hynes said: "We've had a fine season and the lads are all looking forward to two more games against Newcastle. We've already had three extremely close encounters and I don't think that there will be much in it again over these two legs.
"Newcastle have been on top of the league for the majority of the season and they are the benchmark that every other team has been striving to replicate. A few teams, including us, have come close, a couple have succeeded, but these two games will be very different because of what is on offer."
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards is also expecting another tight encounter.
He told Falcons TV: "They are a very good side and they have quality throughout and they like to play with a lot of width, so it will be a good test for the boys.
"The lads looked sharp in training today, and despite a couple of bumps and bruises in the camp, the guys are looking very good.
"The beauty about the game being over two legs is that whatever happens down there, the second leg is as equally important. We will play as well as we can and hopefully come away with the points and carry it on up here, but if not then we have the chance to turn it around up here."
Richards has made two changes to the side that edged out Leeds in the semi-final, with Noah Cato and Rob Vickers starting ahead of Tom Catterick and Matt Thompson.
Bedford: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 James Stephenson, 13 Brendan Burke, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 James Short, 10 Myles Dorrian, 9 Luke Baldwin, 1 Ricky Reeves, 2 Neil Cochrane, 3 Phil Boulton, 4 Mike Howard, 5 Paul Tupai, 6 Gregor Gillanders, 7 Darren Fox (c), 8 Nick Fenton-Wells.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Dan Seal, 18 Ben Gulliver, 19 Don Barrell, 20 Darryl Veenendaal, 21 Jake Sharp 22 Ollie Dodge.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 James Hudson, 20 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 21 Rory Lawson, 22 Waisea Luveniyali
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com